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Tassie victim support service underfunded

Tasmania’s victims of crime support service urgently needs extra resources amid a rise in demand relating to family violence and sexual offences, an inquiry has been told.

A commission of inquiry is examining state government responses to allegations of child sexual abuse in the public service.

Victims Support Services manager Catherine Edwards said there were currently 2.4 full-time equivalent counsellors working across the state.

“The service most engaged by survivors of child sexual abuse is the victims of crime service, that is the service in most need of additional resourcing,” she told the inquiry on Thursday.

“The need is most pressing on the northwest coast, where we only have a counsellor two days a week.

“If a victim presents for face-to-face counselling on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday there is no one in the office to attend.

“We do our best by referring the person to counsellors in the other regions, but there is one in Launceston and one in the south. They’re already bearing a heavy workload.”

The service, part of the state’s justice department, offers free and confidential support, counselling and information for victims of crime.

Ms Edwards said there was an urgent need to employ the northwest counsellor full-time, and said there should be at least two counsellors per region.

She said staff training was restricted by resource constraints and was often delivered “ad hoc”.

“There have been two key drivers for demand of services in recent years … particularly around family violence, sexual violence and child sexual abuse. It’s a very heavy workload,” Ms Edwards said.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Daryl Coates, SC, said his office was struggling to keep up with demand, with the sexual assault unit “overworked and underfunded”.

He said recruiting senior staff was a challenge.

Survivors have previously told the inquiry of the lack of trauma-informed approaches when disclosing abuse to authorities.

The inquiry, which is set to deliver a final report by May, has for the past week been told of health system and police failures in investigating nurse James Geoffrey Griffin.

Griffin took his own life in 2019 while on bail after being charged with multiple child sexual abuse offences.

He had worked for 18 years on the children’s ward of the Launceston General Hospital, which is being subjected to a governance review.

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